This top-heavy Blackhawks team has certainly not had the run of luck to counter-balance how much money they have spent amongst their core players, which has led to the downfall of this team, right out of the playoff picture. That lack of depth has also given us poolies a lack of options to choose from at our drafts or our daily fantasy sites, but that really is the nature of the sports team beast. It's very cyclical, unless you're exceptionally fortunate.
Still, the Blackhawks have to lie in the bed that they've made, since their top seven players on the roster account for more than half of the team's cap space, so digging deep for those discount veterans, college free agents and European pickups is a must for this team to try and compete.
The 2019 season will bring a crop of new names to their roster, trying to revive a club that finished in last place in the Central Division and missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2008 season. There could be a quick fix or two in there somewhere, but the season is long and anything can happen and nothing is quite guaranteed, no matter who returns to the lineup or who gets added.
Table last updated on August 9th
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
This spot seemed to work wonders for Jonathan Quick last season, as he came back from a major injury and was my intriguing player for the Kings at this time last year, so why not do the same for Corey Crawford?
It is true though. He did seem to be the lynch pin for this team in the 2018 season and when he went out of the lineup with his head issues, the Blackhawks just couldn't quite hang on to their dominance. When he left the lineup, he had 36 points in 28 appearances and the team still finished in last in the division.
Chicago did employ some better backup in Cam Ward in this off-season, but I get the feeling that he'll be a parachute that needs to be drawn before too long, especially since Crawford has been dealing with head issues.
First Round Picks
Patrick Kane was just outside of the top 25 overall in hockey pool scoring last season, ranking 28th, but there's no reason to think he can't climb back into the conversation and that should make him a prime candidate to consider him for the opening round. After last year, however, he could fall out to the usual goaltender rush early on in the draft.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
The Blackhawks should still have ample scoring this season from Jonathan Toews, Nick Schmaltz, Brandon Saad and Artem Anisimov, the trustworthy veterans. Sophomore Alex DeBrincat outshone his projection from last year and will be leaned on for some more offense this year, while an entry for the rookie race, Viktor Ejdsell, could make an appearance and an impact too. If the kids can push their way into the lineup and excel, the Blackhawks could be back in the playoff race again.
Other Pool Worthy Defensemen
The Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook connection still rules the roost on the blueline, although both of their numbers have dipped in recent years and their projections have been trying to keep up with the fall. They're both still pool worthy, but you might not want to be in a big rush for them this year. It will be a good battle for ice-time beyond the top two and if I'm offering my guesses, which I am, I am looking towards Brandon Manning and Erik Gustafsson to make the jump into enough minutes to gain points.
If Crawford isn't up to full health, the Blackhawks invested well in a 1-year contract for Cam Ward, as he was bounced out of Carolina this summer. Ward had an okay year with the Hurricanes last year and if he gets time in the crease, which you should be expecting he does, then he should put up some good points on a better team. The Hawks need their goaltending to be top notch or else the playoffs will be a pipe dream.
Team to Pick From Late?
There is some potential hidden in this Blackhawks roster, depending on how it all shapes up through training camp. Veteran forward Chris Kunitz could be one of those guys that finds some renewed offense, joining the club this summer, while some kids like Alexandre Fortin and/or Blake Hillman could find themselves a spot on the bottom six and creep upwards through the year. On the blueline, I'd keep my eye on 2017 1st round pick Henri Jokiharju, who might make a push for a spot this year.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
Chicago has no outstanding RFAs left on their list to re-sign and they were able to off-load Marian Hossa's contract to Arizona this summer, so they are currently $5.1 million clear of the salary cap ceiling with a 24-man roster today, which includes an injury listed below.
The Corey Crawford watch is definitely on, but in the summer, the team's management did suggest that they expect him to be ready for training camp. By no means is that a certainty and that decision will certainly have an impact on how we approach this team come draft time. Keep a close eye, since we're only a few weeks away from it all getting started. Another injury that dropped a couple of weeks ago was the wrist surgery that defenseman Gustav Forsling underwent and he's not expected back until mid-November, so you'll want to stay away from him at the draft, unless you're going exceptionally deep.